Writing a Procedure that the Reader Can Follow

Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant

Definition:

A written procedure is a step-by-step guide to direct the reader through a task.

Advice:

Read this procedure all the way through before you begin to write.

Preparation:

Step 1. Provide a purpose statement (why this procedure).
Step 2. Provide an overview of the procedure.
Step 3. Identify prerequisite knowledge and skills, if any.
Step 4. Highlight any safety issues and other precautions.
Step 5. Add a list of equipment, supplies, or parts needed for the procedure.

Writing:

Step 6. Define a logical sequence of steps and substeps, neither too large nor too small.
a. Use the imperative voice for clarity and economy of words.
b. Write to the level of the reader's ability or a little below. Define unfamiliar terms.
Step 7. Include hints and helps.
Step 8. Add illustrations, analogies, models, anything that will aid understanding of the process and the end product.

Follow up:

Step 9. Pilot test your procedure. Is it understandable, effective, complete? Does it result inefficient and effective performance?
Step 10. Inform the reader of the performance standard to be applied when the procedure is a practiced skill.

Also see How to Write Procedures
What is an SOP?

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